THE ROLE OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT
IN THE CONDOMINIUM SECTOR
Why Should the Municipality Assist Condominiums?
There are over 1.1 million condominium units in Hungary, 60% of which are in former
state-owned apartment buildings that have been privatized and 40% in buildings that
were constructed as condominiums.
In the aftermath of privatization, when new owners need assistance with the
management and operation of their buildings, they often turn to their local
government. This is because the local government has been responsible for the
privatization process, and because it is the level of government closest to the citizens.
In addition, municipalities continue to own and must maintain a few unsold units in
many buildings -- the units that were not purchased by tenants -- so they have a self-
interest in how the buildings are managed as well as a responsibility to help their
citizens complete a successful transition from tenancy to ownership. Municipalities also
must continue to maintain buildings that were not available to be privatized -- usually
the worst of the rental stock.
Municipalities also have an interest in providing support and assistance to owners in
buildings that were constructed as condominiums. These buildings suffer some of the
same problems in terms of physical deterioration as privatized buildings, and their
owners also need information about matters such as management of the property,
energy conservation, and access to financing.
What Kinds of Assistance Do the Owners Need?
The biggest problem confronting condominiums in Hungary is the poor condition of the
housing stock itself. Owners need assistance with maintaining, repairing and improving
their buildings, and with acquiring money to pay for the work that must be done. These
tasks involve everything from routine maintenance, such as cleaning hallways and
fixing leaking faucets, to major repairs and renovation, such as replacing roofs and
insulating exterior panels. Relatively low standards of construction and years of
deferred maintenance have left most buildings in serious need of substantial repairs
and renovation. Local governments can provide various types of assistance to
condominium owners confronting the complicated problems of improving the
condition of their properties, such as the following:
loans or grants funded by the municipality
information about access to bank loans, including the state-subsidized
condominium renovation loan program
training on management and maintenance of apartment buildings, for owners
and less experienced property managers
technical information on construction norms and permits
cooperating with private owners in organizing and financing renovation projects
(as owner of unsold rental units in privatized buildings).
Details on ways the local government can help solve the problems of buildings needed
major repairs or renovation are discussed later in this pamphlet.
In addition to financial and technical assistance with major repairs and renovation,
citizens need help organizing and operating the condominium owners’ association.
This involves understanding new laws that apply to owners’ associations, adopting and
enforcing rules to regulate the internal operation of the association, and preparing a
budget and accounting for the association's income and expenses.
In well-established housing markets, professional property management firms provide
these services for a fee. In Western Europe and the United States, residential property
management is a well developed, highly competitive business. In Hungary, the
practice is to hire a common representative to manage the property for a small fee,
but few common representatives have professional level training as property managers.
(The new Condominium Law anticipates that there will be a training and licensing
program for property managers, but this is not available at the present.) There are a
few private firms beginning to offer management services. Frequently, these are the
former state-owned maintenance companies that have been privatized, and their
existence has proved to entrepreneurs, at least in larger cities, that property
management can be an attractive new business opportunity, and they are starting
private firms. This competition eventually should result in better service at lower cost,
but at the present time many owners feel they cannot afford to pay for professional
services, so they rely on common representatives or manage the property themselves.
Even when professional management is available, local governments should be in a
position to help owners understand local regulations and other government
requirements that apply to this type of housing and ownership, such as zoning and
master plan issues and landlord-tenant relations. From the standpoint of service to
citizens, local governments should do all they can to maintain close and cooperative
relations with condominium owners.
SURVEY RESULTS ON THE STATUS OF CONDOMINIUMS AND THEIR NEEDS
A survey of over 800 condominium common representatives conducted in September
1998 yielded information of substantial interest to local governments in Hungary. 1 The
condominiums in the sample were from Budapest, Gyõr and Nyíregyháza, almost all in
privatized housing. The rest were in buildings that had been built as condominiums; no
cooperative housing was used in the sample. Most of the surveyed condominiums
were from Budapest, so central city buildings with many units predominated in
computing the results.
The survey looked at whole buildings, not individual households, focusing on information
about internal and external arrears as a basis for judgment of the financial position and
operational effectiveness of the owners’ associations.
The major conclusions of the survey are as follows:
At the national level, costs of necessary renovation are estimated to total HUF
Older buildings need the most renovation. On a per unit basis, condominiums in
housing estates comprised of pre-fabricated panel buildings need the least
Utility arrears of over six months duration exist in about 8% of the buildings.
In about half of the reporting condominiums, there were no arrears in
condominium fees. In 20% of the buildings, condominium fee arrearages are a
serious problem – over 10% of the annual budget. Buildings in housing estates
have the worst record in terms of arrearages in both utility fees and
70% of condominiums have established a renovation reserve fund, and 18-20%
regularly have surplus revenue over operating costs and payments to the
In general, condominium representatives have a good opinion of their local
governments and regard them helpful and cooperative.
The Technical State of Condominiums: Deferred Maintenance and Renovation
In the survey, common representatives were asked what renovation projects they
regarded as necessary over the next five years and what they estimate the costs would
be. It appears that the common representatives were realistic in estimating costs and
1The Survey was conducted by Metropolitan Research Institute of Budapest, under
the sponsorship of USAID.
defining the most urgent and practical renovation projects, so the survey makes it
possible to project short term deferred renovation costs on the national level. The total
is about HUF 150-180 billion.2
The survey shows that cost requirements for renovation of panel buildings are much
lower than those of downtown or green-belt condominiums, the latter two with similar
per unit cost. Most of the housing estate buildings are newer than average, were built
with a less expensive technology and contain many units, all factors reducing per unit
costs. Similarly, buildings that had been built as condominiums need about half the
amount for renovation than newer condominiums, probably because the former have
been more regularly maintained. There is a direct relationship between the age of the
condominium and its renovation requirements, i.e., the older the building the more
costly the renovation.
For 40% of the buildings in the survey, renovating the roof is the most urgent need; the
second priority is renovation of stairways. The problems cited least frequently are
emergency lighting and ventilation.
The Financial Situation of Condominiums
The survey found that 92% of condominiums altogether have no utility arrears over six
months, but 15% of condominiums in housing estates and privatized condominiums
have some utility arrearages, with the largest buildings (over 200 units) having around
30% utility arrearages. There are also variations from city to city. In Nyíregyháza, some
15% of condominiums have utility arrears, while in Gyõr practically none has. The
Budapest average is 8%. Smaller and older condominiums have much less utility arrears
than the average.
As for internal arrears, in about half of the surveyed buildings there is no condominium
fee arrears at all. In the other half, there are several categories. In Budapest, per
household arrears are much higher than in the countryside. They are also significantly
higher in Nyíregyháza, and are insignificant in Gyõr. Very old buildings -- those
constructed before 1920, and housing estate condominiums built in the 1970s and 80s
have significant internal debt. In housing estates, about 75% of buildings have at least
one household in arrears. In privatized condominiums, the per unit arrears are much
higher than in buildings constructed as condominiums.
Some 3% of condominiums, mainly in privatized housing estates, had more arrears than
40% of their budgets. However, overall only 20% of fee arrearages are higher than 10%
of the budget. In large housing estate condominiums with elevators, utility arrearages
2According to other estimates, the total costs of renewals would be HUF 1500-
3000 billion nationwide; these estimates include not only space in common ownership
but also the units as well as cooperative housing, municipally owned housing and single
and internal debts correlate, but in older downtown condominiums large internal
arrearages have not drained the budget so much as to make them insolvent externally.
Common representatives report that 40% of debtors are not able to pay while 60%
simply refuse to do so.
According to the survey, approximately 70% of condominiums have a renovation
reserve fund.3 Half of smaller condominiums -- those with fewer than 10 units -- do not
have a renovation fund, and expenses are put up in cash on an occasional basis. The
number of downtown Budapest condominiums with renovations accounts is under
average. Deteriorated buildings constructed before 1950 are in the worst financial
situation: only 50-60% of them have a renovation fund. Some 40% of better-maintained
condominiums do not think it necessary to create such a fund. As many as 85-90% of
the larger housing estate condominiums with average level of maintenance have
renovation funds, and over 90% of condominiums in rural towns have such accounts.
Approximately 18% of condominiums run
Survey Results on the Attitudes of
a regular revenue surplus after paying
Condominiums toward Local
current costs and the renewal fund. This
is the only variable that does not vary in
across categories, i.e., it is consistent in Generally, condominium dwellers have a
all types of condominiums. In 50% of positive view of their local government.
condominiums with a revenue surplus, Some 63% of surveyed condominiums
the excess funds are deposited into a said that the local government did not
bank account, in 20% they are spent on unduly influence their decisions, 10% said
maintenance, and in 15% on renovation. local government influence was beneficial
Buying securities or other investments is to the condominium. In 25% of the cases,
very rare. As few as 4% of those with a there was no municipality share of
surplus actually budget the surplus ownership in the condominium. Where
amount. there is, in 90% of the cases, the local
government regularly pays its share of
Under the criteria of Decree No. 106 of condominium fees.
1988, about 20% of condominiums are
now eligible for a bank loan with
repayment subsidized with central government funds. The amount of the loan depends
on the size of the renovation reserves. The share of eligible houses is lower in Budapest
and higher in the countryside. In housing estates, the percentage can be as high as
30%, and in green-belt areas 40%. Only 10% of buildings constructed as condominiums,
while an above-the-average share of privatized condominiums, are eligible.
Unfortunately, condominiums in the worst condition have the least chance to qualifying
3The percentage from the survey was higher but adjusted down because
condominiums with few units which tend to have no bank accounts at all, let alone a
reserve fund account, were under-represented in the survey.
for a subsidized loan (only about 6%).
The largest percentage of condominiums eligible for subsidized loans are privatized
green-belt or housing estate condominiums constructed between 1950 and 1980.
However, the target group is not consistent with the types of condominiums what know
about the subsidy: few condominiums obtain this information in the countryside, in
housing estates or green-belt areas. Consequently, creating a renovation fund seems
to be incidental rather than a conscious preparation for renovation through
qualification for a subsidized loan.
Local Government Financial Assistance for Renovation
Of surveyed condominiums, 118 obtained a municipal grant or loan for renovation
purposes, 20% of the 573 surveyed condominiums in Budapest. These condominiums
often did not get the whole requested amount. The average amount granted was
about HUF 800 thousand. Mostly older downtown condominiums were granted a
subsidy, primarily because inner city districts have more effective subsidy systems.
Usually, condominiums in average condition were granted a subsidy, rather than those
in more deteriorated condition.
Interestingly, condominiums receiving subsidies are under-average in terms of most
norms, though none of the municipal programs targeted buildings in especially bad
condition; in fact, some local governments directly or indirectly exclude condominiums
in poorest condition from the subsidy system. In more than half the cases, houses
without a renovation fund and relatively high utility debts received subsidies. Their
condominium fee debts were significant; they are 1.5 times more likely to have arrears
than the average building.
Besides direct financial support, local governments have other tools to promote the
renovation of condominiums. While bank loans would seem to be a logical way to
obtain funds for such projects, they are uncommon because of lack of collateral. About
40% of condominiums said that they would borrow from a bank to finance renovation if
the local government would guarantee the loan with the accounts of the
condominium accessible to the local government as security.
What Other Kinds of Local Government Assistance Do Owners Want?
In addition to funds, condominiums need information and organizational assistance to
undertake successful renovation projects. About 55% of surveyed condominiums said it
would be useful to set up a municipal information office that would help with the
renovation process. Information programs would be especially useful in locations that
have no financial assistance available.
The survey asked the question: “What could the local government do to promote
condominium renovation more effectively?” Responses feel into three categories:
Provide more financial assistance, or create a subsidy system if there is none.
Improve administration of an existing subsidy program; especially, simplify criteria
for qualifying for the program.
Provide more technical, legal and financial information.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS FOR CONDOMINIUM
Law 106/1988, which provides for the state to pay one half of the loan repayment
amount for qualified loans and borrowers, is the principal bank loan subsidy program
available for condominium renovation in Hungary. These loans can be used for loans
for common area renovation, but relatively few such loans have been made because
of complications in the design of the loan program, and perhaps because of some
reluctance on the part of some people to borrow money for this purpose. Local
governments can play an important role in making these funds more accessible by
disseminating information about the program to residents in condominiums, as part of
information programs discussed below. There are other, less familiar loan programs
available that local government should learn about so they can fully respond to
inquires from citizens about financing options.
Municipal Loan and Grant Programs
A number of municipalities throughout Hungary have set up their own loan programs to
make funds available for condominium renovation on very favorable terms, or even
grant programs. This assistance can be particularly important now, when many people
have the perception that interest rates make banks loans very expensive or where
banks are reluctant to lend to the condominium market. In places where bank loans
are feasible, local governments funds might be used to guarantee the loans.
Municipal programs to finance condominium renovation are becoming more and
more common throughout Hungary. Among local governments offering assistance
programs in 1998, there was a broad use
of both non-repayable grants and
repayable loans. In Budapest, 19 Districts Funds for Condominium Renovation in
offered such programs, approximately Budapest
evenly split among those with only non-
repayable grants, those with only In 1998, the 19 Districts of Budapest with
repayable loans, and those with both loan/grant programs for condominium
types of aid. Programs also have been renovation committed a total of 1.3
established in the cities of Miskolc, billion forints to these programs.
Szekesfehervar, Debrecen, and
Tatabanya, among others.
Features that are common to all the programs include the following:
a substantial portion of the renovation costs must be paid by the condominium
association or from the owners’ own resources, varying from as low as 30% to as
high as 60% of the renovation costs
an application must be submitted which includes a detailed technical plan and
certification of approval of the condominium owners (in most programs, the
approval does not need to be by 100% of owners)
funds are disbursed only to an owners’ association as a group, not through loan
agreements or grants to individual owners
no interest is charged on loans, in order to avoid violation of law which prohibits
non-banking entities from charging interest
the renovation work must be monitored by technical experts from the
Here are some important points a municipality should keep in mind when designing a
financial assistance program for condominium renovation:
The local government should be willing to commit funds for a period of years, so
that local residents will become aware of the program, their expectations can
be met, and administrative staff can develop adequate expertise to run the
The local government should publicize the program as widely as possible,
through newspaper advertisements, visits to property management firms and
individual condominiums, calling public meetings, and so forth.
The programs should require cost sharing on the part of the condominiums, that
is, the projects should be funded partially from the funds of the owners, whether
cash or from a renovation account.
The program design should be as simple as possible so that it is comprehensible
to the average citizen and can be easily administers by the local government.
The programs probably cannot expect to solve the problems of buildings with
the poorest owners or those in the worst condition; this would place too great a
burden on local resources.
Municipalities should carefully review the financial records of condominiums that
apply for loans, so they can determine the likelihood that the owners will meet
Surprisingly, existing local government loan funds are sometimes underutilized, probably
because of the program design is unnecessarily complicated or because there has
been insufficient publicity about the availability of these funds. Also, it can be very
difficult for all the residents in a building to reach consensus on what projects to
undertake and how to pay for them. Often there is a large disparity in income among
the residents in a given building. Local governments help overcome this problem by
using local housing and utility allowance programs to assist owners who otherwise
could not afford to participate in renovation projects.
Pros and Cons of Loans v. Grants
Repayable loan programs are operating effectively in a number of areas, with budgets
in the range of 6 million to 200 million HUF per year. The level of demand from
applicant condominiums has been high; in Budapest districts, most programs have
received applications which exceeded the available funds. The repayment
experience of the local governments has been excellent.
The major advantage of the loan programs is that repayments can be returned for re-
lending in future years. For example, District III in Budapest has received ___ million HUF
in repayments since 199_ and added these back to the revolving fund. A further
advantage of this approach is that it demonstrates to condominium owners that
renovation of their own property is their responsibility, and that the municipality is not
financially responsible for maintaining their homes. If there are loan funds available but
not grants, those condominiums willing and able to increase their common fees to
cover repayment will be rewarded by qualifying for a loan. Those condominiums with
renovation needs but which have been short-sighted and failed to allocate a portion of
common fees to renovation expenses or to be diligent about collecting condominium
fees from the owners will not qualify for municipal assistance.
The primary drawback of operating a loan program is the administrative effort required.
The collection of monthly payments and investigation of any repayment problems
requires staff resources, and if liens are involved in securing the loans, legal work is
needed. However, the payment function can be a fairly simple one if assigned to a
property management office which has the basic infrastructure of computerized bill
collecting and record keeping. Many local governments have assigned this task to the
successor of the IKV, but it could be contracted out to any qualified company.
Collateral required to secure these loans has mainly consisted of either liens on
individual flats or a contract pledging the condominium’s bank account and future
cash flow. Other examples of collateral include a pledge of rental funds from a leased
commercial space, and the pledge of future common fees owed on municipally
owned flats in the borrowing condominium. All programs, regardless of type of
collateral required, have enjoyed very good repayment records so far; a number of
them with 5 year histories.
In general, programs requiring registered liens on most or all flats in the condominium
have been less popular with applicants, and have not paid out 100% of their budgeted
funds. Though a lien for a small amount would seem to be readily acceptable to most
owners, in fact, any lien still arouses opposition among some owners and may prevent a
loan application from being filed. Also, it may prove unwieldy, for the local government
to go to the trouble of registering multiple liens, especially when the amount are small.
See the Appendix B for chart summarizing all the Budapest District loan and grant
Misconceptions about Loans:
The wide success of condominium lending by local governments disproves some widely
held misconceptions about the possible drawbacks. Contrary to widespread belief:
loan programs can work in geographic areas of all economic levels, both in
Budapest and in cities and towns with lower incomes
loan offerings attract widespread interest from a variety of buildings; in many
cases the tenders are oversubscribed
loan programs can serve even condominiums where people earn low salaries
and can only afford modest common fees, because monthly payments on such
loans are very low where a moderate size loan is concerned
judging by experience so far, condominiums faithfully repay loans from the local
Grant programs where the financial assistance from the municipality to the
condominium is not repaid have also been successful. A major benefit of such an
approach is the administrative simplicity it offers. Though there may be a rigorous
application process, once funds are spent there is no further servicing or follow-up on
the funds. In addition, a wider range of condominiums may be willing and able to
apply, compared to a repayable loan. No increase in common fees within the
condominium is required to cover repayments. However, often a grant program is
structured to require a larger cash contribution from the condominium, necessitating
the accumulation of large reserves prior to qualifying, and this factor makes it difficult
for extremely low income buildings to qualify.
A negative factor in a grant program is that funds do not return to the local
government and new budget appropriations must be made each year if the program
is to continue in future years. On a broader level, grant programs may perpetuate the
sense that municipalities are responsible for guaranteeing the success of
condominiums, rather than properly placing the primary burden on the condominium
Dissemination of Information about Bank Loans
Municipalities can provide an important service to their citizens by informing them
about the options for specialized banks loans for condominium renovation. Use of these
loans is becoming more frequent, largely because they involve state subsidies, which
can be substantial.4 As owners become more informed about the affordablility of such
loans and banks become more familiar with condominium lending, the volume of
banks loans can be expected to increase significantly. This will take some of the
pressure off municipal loan programs, where demand often exceeds available funds.
Right now, problems in the use of bank loans arise primarily from non-financial
qualification criteria, but these should be eased in the future
Currently, there are two principal impediments to bank lending to condominiums:
Underwriting Criteria. Condominiums must meet certain requirements concerning their
financial operations, reserves, and level of arrears in payment of condominium fees by
individual owners. Recent experience indicates that many condominiums do not meet
these requirements, but only because they are unaware of the requirements and the
desirability of bank financing. Once they have this information, they often can readily
modify their budgeting and collection activities and meet the banks’ qualification
Collateral Requirements. Bank loans must be secured by adequate collateral, which
could be a lien or liens on common or individually owned real property, or liquid assets.
Most condominiums do not have commonly owned property upon which a lien can be
placed or sufficient liquid assets to secure a loan large enough for a substantial
renovation project. For this reason, banks have usually required liens on individually
owned apartments. In a large building there will almost inevitably be some owners
who are unwilling to allow a lien on their property. If the bank requires liens on all units,
it is impossible for the owners to get bank financing for common area renovations.
Banks are becoming more flexible in collateral requirements, and liens on all units are
less commonly required. Local government condominium experts should keep
informed about current bank policies so that this information can be passed along to
In addition to banks, contractors sometimes give short term loans (maximum 1 year).
Municipal Guarantees on Bank Loans
Local governments should consider policies that encourage bank lending to
condominiums. Currently both the state subsidy and bank capital are under used,
while there is substantial demand for municipal loans and grants. The financing system
would function more efficiently under market principles if local government
encouraged bank to lend to condominiums through such means as guarantees.
Among the benefits of local government guarantees of bank loans are the following:
Local governments would have the same risk by guaranteeing as by issuing a
loan without a lien, as usually happens now.
The same amount of money could be used to renovate more buildings with
guarantees then with loans, since the full cost of the work need not be
The funds that municipalities save by leveraging bank loans can be used for the
important tasks of supporting the most needy families, buildings, and territories.
Municipalities must take reasonable precautions to protect themselves against having
to pay on the guarantee. They should carefully evaluate the condominiums whose
loans they guarantee, and in some cases, require collateral such as income of the
association or rent from a commonly owned unit. Buildings that are not eligible for
state subsidized loans (and therefore cannot qualify for the lower repayment amount),
should be evaluated with particular care, and in all cases the municipality should
review a condominium’s financial management practices with regard to arrearages,
budgeting, and the like.
It may appear to condominiums that municipal direct lending can be more favorable
for them than bank lending, even with municipal guarantee, so there can be a
disincentive to improve their financial condition, reserves and arrears level so as to be
eligible for a subsidized loan. In order to avoid this phenomenon, municipalities should
design their programs very carefully to avoid making them more favorable than bank
loans, or to specify which properties, for example, only less affluent condominiums, are
eligible for direct municipal subsidies.
Case Study: Loan Guarantee for Municipal Heat in City of Debrecen
Metering heat is a major challenge for district heated buildings and the local
governments that own the district heating companies. The City of Debrecen addressed
these problems in an effective way. Installing heat meters and szabályzó szelepek cost
about 30-50,000 forints per flat. The district heating company issued the following offer
to condominiums: if most of the owners agree to participate, they pay 2,000 per
radiator and the district heating company designs the new heating system and installs
the metering apparatus. The plan helps finance the project by providing a municipal
grant of 5,000 forint per flat, reducing the fixed cost of the heat, and guaranteeing a
short term loan. The funds for the 1 year loan come from the contractor and are
forwarded from the district heating company to the building, having the same effect as
Low income residents. One of the major impediments of renovation of condominiums is
their mixed ownership composition, particularly in the case of privatized buildings. In
the context of renovation, without a specially designed program the owners may have
to adjust to the financial condition of the poorest family who, in some cases, are not
able to pay their ordinary bills let alone renovation costs.
One solution for this problem can be the market force persons who cannot afford to live
in condominiums to give them up, either by their voluntarily vacating their units or
through foreclosure procedures initiated by the association for nonpayment of
condominium fees. In such cases, the municipality may have the obligation or feel the
need to provide alternative or social housing some kind of social housing. Building or
buying social flats is the most expensive solution. It would be more cost effective and
less socially disruptive for the municipality to provide targeted support for poor families
and make it possible for them to pay their own housing expenses, including the costs of
maintaining and improving the common areas.
A well functioning social subsidy system can be designed in several ways:
The municipality can include a renovation subsidy in the housing allowance
system. In this way, both regular housing costs, including the common fee, and
some portion of the renovation costs could be provided. The design must
address issues like who the targeted families will be, what costs will be covered,
means of distribution, amount of the subsidy, and rules for different types of costs.
Provide renovation subsidies on a case by case basis after careful evaluation of
the status of the family and the renovation work.
Any subsidy that helps poor families pay any of their housing costs provides funds for
renovation, but the municipality should decide the extent to which renovation of
housing is a priority. If it is, direct financial help for facilitating renovation should be
Low Income Buildings or Neighborhoods. Funds may be targeted not to families but to
certain areas of the city or certain types of buildings. The city should know which areas
are endangered, on the basis of declining real prices of flats, growing number of
arrears, increases in unemployment, growing incidence of violence or crime, and can
target areas for renovation of open spaces and recreation facilities, motivating
residents to take care of their surroundings. People will feel more optimistic about their
living conditions and about making investments in their flats and buildings if they feel
their neighborhood is an attractive place to live.
Municipal Program Targeting: The Example of Washington D.C.
Several subsidized loan programs operate in Washington D.C. on a targeted basis, to
assist condominium and cooperative buildings to undertake renovation. Eligible
buildings must have a majority of units owned or rented by low income households,
usually defined as incomes below 80% of the median income for a metropolitan area
(published annually by the national government). A given building may have
households with a range of incomes, so higher income people are allowed to
participate as long as the majority of families in the building meet the low income
standard. Those buildings with mostly higher income households cannot receive any
direct assistance from local government.
To implement the program, buildings are assisted with collecting the income data by
local NGOs. The city housing department contracts with several NGOs who provide
housing counselors to help the owners prepare an application for the loan program.
Several million dollars in loans are committed each year under this program.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT INFORMATION AND TRAINING PROGRAMS (NON-FINANCIAL
Why Information and Training Are Important
Sometimes owners are simply not convinced that investment in building improvements
can benefit them, by increasing the value of their property and their individual wealth.
This points to the need for training and information dissemination on how a
condominium operates and the responsibilities of ownership.
Many municipalities have come to realize that privatization is not an end in itself. When
new owners with problems come to City Hall for help, the local government should
have a program and knowledgeable staff to provide assistance. Otherwise, citizens
are more likely to become dissatisfied with privatization, and with the local government
Cities that have assistance programs aimed at helping ease the transition to
condominium ownership not only have an opportunity to give citizens practical
assistance but also foster the development of a stable housing market based on
widespread private ownership and effective operation of the multifamily housing stock.
While the need may be greater in privatized buildings, these programs should be
available on an equal basis to owners in buildings that were constructed as
Commitment of Staff and Resources
These programs must begin with a commitment on the part of the local government to
provide the necessary resources, facilities, and manpower. It is very important that
assistance be provided by designated municipal employees or consultants who are
identified and trained for that purpose, so that they are accountable for performing this
work and the public knows where to go for help.
This can be done through establishment of an “Office of Condominium Services,”
staffed with experts and advocates for home owners in multifamily buildings. The Office
can be the repository and distribution point for written materials on condominium
operations and renovation, it can offer other kinds of information (for example, the
experts can answer questions about the requirements of the condominium law or how
to hold an election for an executive committee), or it can offer more formal training
and education courses for members of executive committees or others interested in the
The staff of the office should have regular hours, so that owners or common
representatives know when help will be available. In addition, telephone inquiries
should be taken during office hours.
The staff can also take more pro-active measures, such as going to the buildings to
attend meetings with owners, speaking at public meetings about issues of interest to
condominiums, publishing newsletters, distributing models and plans for small repair
projects, and using the local media to discuss issues of importance to condominiums.
Training and Information Dissemination
Training programs, for common representatives, executive committee members and
officers of owners’ associations, and for potential providers of property management
services, have been developed for use in Hungary. The programs cover the following
topics: organizing a condominium owners' association, the legal framework applicable
to condominiums, the practical methodology and skills needed for management and
operation of the properties, and renovation of condominium property. Training
manuals have been developed, which include helpful material such as model bylaws,
rules enforcement procedures, and personnel policies, and sample documents such as
management contracts, notices of tender for construction projects, and construction
contracts. [Tell where to get, or refer to information on front or back cover of pamphlet.]
In addition to training programs, local governments can implement campaigns for
mass dissemination of information. This involves activities such as training city
employees as condominium experts who can answer questions from citizens who come
to city hall for assistance, and who use the media to educate the public on
condominium issues through newspaper articles and television and radio interviews.
Documentary videos might even be prepared which feature local citizens discussing
their experiences as home owners and members of an owners' association, or
describing how they undertook and completed repairs to their building.
Why are training and information dissemination necessary? Some of the most complex
problems resulting from privatization are the most basic ones -- the need to help the
new owners understand their rights and responsibilities as owners, organize into a
condominium association, and acquire the skills needed to manage and operate their
property. There should be many more effective local programs to inform new owners
about ownership and operation of condominium property. Sometimes problems that
seem difficult can be solved with a little information, For example, in some buildings
nothing is being done to maintain or improve the property, not necessarily because of
inadequate financial resources among the owners, but because methods of allocating
common expenses and the owners’ responsibility with regard to the common areas are
unclear. A pamphlet explaining rights and responsibilities of ownership or access to a
condominium expert at City Hall can resolve such a problem quickly.
Training and information programs can have important incidental benefits. The simple
process of getting the owners together to discuss the organization of the association
and the condition of the building can result in the owners’ themselves undertaking
small, inexpensive projects. Dissemination of these ideas is an important service the city
can provide. For example, owners who have knowledge about plumbing repairs can
notify the other owners that the water will be shut off at a certain time, and a team will
go from apartment to apartment to repair or replace leaking water valves and faucets.
Savings from such a project can be significant, particularly in the case of hot water.
Similarly, owners can purchase weather stripping and caulking material, and seal
windows and doors throughout the building to save on heating costs and to increase
comfort in the building. Many projects, such as cleaning, painting, and replacing light
bulbs in common hallways, and picking up trash and planting flowers in yards, require
little expertise or funds, but they can make a great improvement in the appearance of
the common property of the building and build a sense of community among the
Local governments also have the power to adopt policies that provide long-term
benefits to new condominiums. For example, they should support renovation projects in
buildings where they own units, both by voting for the projects that most resident
owners believe to be necessary and by paying their share of the costs in a timely
One potential problem that the government can solve is what to do with the land
between buildings, and who has the right to use it. The right to use this land, which is
usually not appropriate for new development, can be transferred to the owners of the
adjacent condominiums. That way, the local government is relieved of the obligation
to maintain the property, and the owners have space for such things as playgrounds,
gardens, or parking.
The local government can prepare prototype plans and specifications for building
improvements. In most places, there are a limited number of building types.
Standardized specifications can be prepared for repairs that are most commonly
needed and most likely to make a substantial improvement in the value of the building
or the comfort of the residents, such as renovating roofs or sealing panel joints.
Both educational and financial assistance programs should emphasize renovation
projects that can result in cost savings to the owners, usually through energy
conservation. This makes the prospect of borrowing money more acceptable.
Examples of such projects include repair and insulation of concrete panel joints and
windows to prevent heat loss, installation of meters for heat and hot water and other
improvements to the heating system, replacing water pipes to eliminate leaks, and the
Poorly constructed, flat roofs are a major problem, causing water infiltration in upper
units and eventually resulting in serious structural damage to the building, but replacing
a roof in itself does not lead to measurable cost savings. Some condominiums have
adopted a creative approach to financing roof replacement by adding new units on
top of the old building. The new units have been financed either by an outside investor
who is interested in renting or occupying the new units, or the condominium association
itself by borrowing from a bank and securing or repaying the loan with the cash flow
gained by renting or selling the new units.
The local government can also assist by standardizing and expediting building permit
and inspection procedures, perhaps by setting up a one-stop office to handle all the
administrative forms and procedures needed for condominium renovation projects.
Building engineering plans should be made readily available to privatized buildings, not
just for renovation projects but also to encourage proper preventive maintenance. In
cases where master plans or local regulations inhibit the ability of condominiums to
carry out projects such as attic extensions, the municipality should review its policies
and eliminates roadblocks.
In most places, the property and transaction registration systems have been totally
overwhelmed by housing privatization and other changes in property ownership as a
result of the move to a market economy. The lack of certainty of good title is a major
impediment to the development of a market for sales and re-sales of apartments.
Local governments should do everything possible to expedite the accurate registration
of property transactions, through cooperation and interaction with the courts or other
agencies responsible for supervising the registration process.
Local governments can help assure the success of housing privatization and
condominiums by coordinating and leveraging existing financial resources,
disseminating information on existing financing programs and the cost-effectiveness of
certain renovation projects, and organizing owners to overcome problems in reaching
consensus on what work to do and how to pay for it.
EXAMPLES OF MUNICIPAL
CONDOMINIUM RENOVATION LOAN/GRANT PROGRAMS
The following are brief summaries of 4 municipal lending and grant programs. Each of
these programs has positive and negatives points and they are not presented here as
“models,” but rather to show how several local governments have designed financial
assistance programs for condominium renovation.
BUDAPEST, DISTRICT II
This affluent district in the Buda section of Budapest has had a condominium renovation
loan/grant program since 1997. District funds available in 1997 totaled 20 million HUF, of
which only 4 million HUF was used. In 1998, 80 million HUF was available.
The program is a grant or loan program, designed to be used in conjunction with the
Budapest Municipal loan/grant program which has operated since 1997. District II
began a second program in 1998, which stands alone without Budapest funds involved.
Both programs are designed to be used for either grants or 5 year repayable loans, but
apparently so far only grants have been disbursed.
The Budapest-linked program is targeted to privatized condominiums which either were
built before 1945 or are situated along major roads. The District II program calls for the
renovation costs to be split in the following proportions: 40% of cost from the
condominium’s funds; 30% from the District program; 30% from the Budapest
municipality’s program. The maximum grant from the District is 30,000 to 35,000 HUF per
flat. Additional program requirements are that the condominium must be current on
any District taxes owed, and members must be current on installments of any local
government loans for the initial purchase of flats.
Even with these fairly liberal “own share” and other requirements, only 11 applications
were received in 1997. Seven of those were approved by the District and ultimately also
approved by the Budapest municipality, using 4 million HUF of District funds in grants.
For 1998, the demand rose significantly; 56 qualified applications were received,
requesting 45 million HUF, and approved by the municipality of Budapest. The number
of applications sent to Budapest from District II was the greatest of any District in the
city in 1998.
The District’s own separate program got underway in late 1998. The District published a
tender offering these funds. The eligibility for this program is broader than the citywide
program, allowing condominiums built up to 1980 to apply, as well as those buildings
which were originally built as condominiums. The District wants to involve as many
buildings as possible in their local program. Funds will be available as either a grant or
loan, with funding of 50% of the cost from the District and 50% as an “own share.”
BUDAPEST, DISTRICT XV
This outlying District has a substantial stock of less affluent condominiums, about 50% of
which are pre-fabricated construction. The District started a condominium loan
program in 1997 to assist with common area renovation. In both 1997 and 1998, the
local council allocated 30 million HUF for the program, and it has been fully loaned out
in both those years. The District has addressed the excess demand for funds by funding
100% of the qualified applicants but reducing the award for each to less than the full
The program design is for a minimum 50% “own share” from the condominium, with up
to 50% loaned by the District for 5 years at 0% interest. The maximum loan is 3 million
HUF; the average loan amount was 1.2 million HUF in 1998. The loan application must
be approved by a majority of owners, not necessarily 100%. No property liens are
required; the loans are secured with a contract outlining the District’s right to place a
lien on the condominium units in case of default. The District did not consider requiring
any other collateral because the loans are relatively small.
There were 21 loans awarded in each of the past two years, in 1998, loan size ranged
from 200,000 HUF to 2.8 million HUF. The work most commonly done was roof
replacement, followed by lift repairs and replacement of main lines for heat and water.
Once a loan is closed, funds are advanced to the condominium before construction
starts in order to expedite the work. Repayments have begun on the 1997 loans, and
there have been no defaults so far.
About 2/3 of the borrowing condominiums are in pre-fabricated buildings. The loan
recipients tend to be located in less affluent neighborhoods because most
condominiums in the District are in large housing estates. However, the poorest
condominiums do not apply because they do not have the 50% cash required. The
District considered easing the 50% cash requirement but decided that would generate
too much demand for the limited amount of funds, and the District does not have the
resources to expand the program.
Publicity was made through the normal channels of local television, and a municipal
newspaper which circulates to every household in the District. The District also mailed
information to all known property managers.
Miskolc enacted a new condominium renovation loan program in June 1998, partly
based on the prototype program guidelines prepared as part of the USAID-sponsored
condominium renovation project. The program is designed to fund common area
renovations of whole systems. It consists of “Program A,” for municipal assistance (either
loan or loan guarantee) in conjunction with a bank loan, and “Program B,” for a stand-
alone municipal loan. The major conditions for both programs are the same:
The condominium must fund at least 30% of the cost as its “own share”
The loans are income targeted, limited to assisting families with income below
150% of the national minimum income threshold.
Collateral is required, sometimes in the form of liens on individual units, but the
program administrator is flexible on whether liens will actually be required, other
collateral, such as a pledge of the condominium bank account, may suffice in
The maximum loan term is 10 years.
There are additional requirements for Program A:
The condominium must have submitted an application for bank financing, with
100% owner approval; the implication is that these would be individual loans, but
a joint loan would not be prohibited from qualifying;
75% of the owners must qualify for bank financing, the condominium as a whole
must qualify for 75% of the loan amount needed and the municipality will fill the
The qualifications for a loan or a loan guarantee apparently are the same; there
is no differentiation in the criteria.
Additional requirement for Program B:
Common fee arrears cannot exceed 10% of the budget nor can more than 10%
of the owners be delinquent.
[Originally, Program B in Miskolc required that the renovation cost equal 35% of owners’
income. With this high standard, there was little demand for these funds, so the
requirement has recently been eliminated.]
The municipality enacted a loan program for privatized condominiums in June 1998,
which allocated up to 20 million HUF in repayable, 0% interest, 3 year loans for 1998.
The loan can be for up to 50% of the cost of the renovation, up to a maximum of 3
million HUF, but eligible condominiums may not have any outstanding arrears owed to
the city for “operating and refurbishment expenses.” Also, purchase installment loans
made to individual owners must be paid up to date.
The program has two stringent requirements that have impeded demand for use of
these funds. First, all owners must agree to registration of a lien on their unit, unless the
loan amount is less than 5,000 HUF per unit. Presumably, an owner could opt to pay
cash for his share of the project to avoid the lien, but otherwise few buildings are likely
to meet this standards. Second, applications must be made within 60 days of the
announcement date for the program, and no late applications will be accepted. The
program announcement was distributed widely, but since a General Assembly vote for
the renovation must be taken and technical documentation gathered for an
application, this seems like a difficult burden to meet. The city has been encouraged
to eliminate or loosen these requirements.
A positive element of the program design is the use of a short, standardized two page
loan agreement. This is distributed with the application, so condominiums can see in
advance exactly what it is they would be agreeing to under the program.
While the city has a strong interest in supporting renovation of the old, historic section of
downtown, it has given only a small advantage to historic buildings in the loan
program. Such buildings may apply for loans 20% higher than other buildings, so that
the loan could cover 60% rather than 50% of cost, presumably with a 20% higher
maximum loan amount (3.6 million HUF).
Comparison of Loan Installment Payments
(Installments calculated with 25% interest and 2% administration fee)
Market loan State Combinatio Subsidized
subsidized n of state loan for
loan subsidized & facilitating
Monthly 35.020 23.250 19.400 25.170
for 1 million
HUF loan for
Monthly 26.080 12.640 14.120 14.520
for 1 million
HUF loan for
Monthly 70.040 46.500 38.820 50.340
for 2 million
HUF loan for
Monthly 52.140 25.270 28.240 29.040
for a 1
loan for 8
Eligibility Banking Law 106/1988 MT 106/1988 MT 105/1996
criteria Decree and Decree, Government
77/1988 PM- 77/1988 PM- Decree
ÉVM Decree ÉVM
5The interest rate of the ‘German loan’ is always 1/3 bank's base interest rate +
2.5%; 2/3 is the subsidy. The table also shows the 2% administration fee.
Cash 50 % 0% 10 % 10-25 %
Comments Mortgage Available Available
Loan Bank only after only after
issues loans fulfilling fulfilling
only with renovation renovation
mortgage fund fund
collateral requirement requirement
s s; maturity
52 - 97